A quarantined traveller at a Perth hotel at the centre of a snap lockdown affecting two million people in Western Australia claims guards weren’t wearing PPE for most of his stay there.
Ben Grimshaw, 49, told Daily Mail Australia he was concerned by the ‘slack demeanour’ among the sub-contracted security at the Sheraton Four Points hotel.
Mr Grimshaw, who is on day 13 of mandatory quarantine, said he was worried even before hearing a guard had tested positive with Covid-19 over the weekend.
‘When I opened the hotel room door to collect meals or put out rubbish I could see them sitting in the corridors looking at their phones, with no masks or any other PPE,’ he said.
‘I had the impression they were so bored and were feeling complacent about the risks.’
Ben Grimshaw, 49 (pictured), said he was feeling concerned about the ‘slack demeanour’ among the sub-contracted security guards
He is staying at the Sheraton Four Points in Perth’s CBD, where a guard tested positive for Covid on Saturday night
The view from Mr Grimshaw’s quarantine hotel room at the Sheraton Four Points in Perth
The guards seemed to be mostly young international students and workers, he added.
Premier Mark McGowan announced the drastic lockdown, which came into affect at 6pm Perth time last night, revealing a security guard in his 20s at the hotel tested positive to the virus on Saturday night.
Mr McGowan said the guard did not enter a hotel room but did patrol the same floor as an infected guest in quarantine.
The lockdown, affecting 80 per cent of the state’s population, sparked a wave of panic buying across packed supermarkets.
The news prompted South Australia to close its borders to WA without warning, along with Victoria, Queensland, Northern Territory, and later the ACT.
Tthe infected guard worked two 12-hour shifts on both January 26 and 27 while there were four cases at the hotel, including two with the highly-infectious UK variant and one confirmed to have the South African strain.
The news ended Western Australia’s 10-month coronavirus-free streak, sending the entire Perth metropolitan area, the Peel region and the South West region into a snap five-day lockdown.
Mr Grimshaw (pictured) said he had the impression the guards were so bored they started feeling complacent about the risks
Pictured: Inside the room of Mr Grimshaw at the at the Sheraton Four Points in Perth
A second suspected case has come forward in WA but the Health Department says the case is believed to be historic and not a risk.
WA Health Minister Roger Cook said the infected security guard ‘would have’ been wearing PPE while on shift at the hotel.
However, the only time the guards at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel seemed to be appropriately attired was only when guests first arrived or when they left and they needed to be escorted through the hotel, Mr Grimshaw claimed.
When the guards were simply guarding the rooms in the corridors on long shifts, the PPE was apparently missing, or masks were seen around necks instead of faces.
‘I was already worried, as obviously I’d read all about how this same sort of mistake had occurred in Melbourne and caused a second lockdown and hundreds of deaths,’ Mr Grimshaw said.
‘I just can’t believe nothing was learnt from that and these guards were hired, clearly without any proper supervision.’
There are fears the guard may have infected thousands after 16 locations he visited were put on alert.
They were mostly in the Marylands suburb where he lives but also included the Perth Convention Centre and a GP practice in Nedlands, which the man attended between January 25 and January 30.
Perth, Peel and the South West entered a strict lockdown beginning 6pm on Sunday and lasting until Friday – impacting about 80 per cent of WA’s population
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE INFECTED SECURITY GUARD
The security guard, who is aged in his 20s and from Maylands, inner Perth, tested positive to coronavirus on Saturday night – but may have been infectious five days earlier.
He was working at the Sheraton Four Points hotel, on the same floor as returned Australians confirmed to have the highly-infectious UK Covid strain.
The man worked 12-hour shifts on both January 26 and 27 while there were four active cases at the hotel, including two with the UK variant and one confirmed to have the South African strain.
Authorities are adamant the security guard did not enter any hotel rooms.
The man returned negative results as part of routine testing on January 15, 17 and 23 but started to become unwell last Thursday – January 28.
He was most likely infectious from January 26 but only tested positive on Saturday, causing concern to health authorities due to the extensive number of venues he visited while potentially infectious over a five-day period.
The man had a second job as a ride share driver but authorities said he had not worked in that role since January 22.
The man has three housemates who have all tested negative to Covid-19. They have all been placed in hotel quarantine for 14 days.
The security guard visited 15 venues, which have been listed as potential exposure sites. This includes a Coles, KFC, halal grocery store, an Indian consulate and a hair salon.
Mr Grimshaw, a British citizen with Australian permanent residency, has spent 13 days in his room on the 5th floor at the hotel, after waiting nearly a year to return to Perth to work as a sustainability manager.
He said he felt ‘angry and upset’ that the first he and other travellers in the hotel heard about the outbreak was on the news.
‘We have been met with a wall of silence. I asked the manager of the hotel where in the hotel this outbreak is and on what floor,’ he said.
‘But he said he was being kept in the dark himself by WA Health. I feel very disappointed and let down by the whole situation.’
Mr Grimshaw said he didn’t yet know if he and others staying at the hotel would be released as planned tomorrow.
‘I’ve had my second test already and even the nurse didn’t know what floor this all occurred on, we are all very much in the dark,’ he said.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted the WA Department of Health for comment.
Residents are pictured queuing to get into a Coles supermarket on Sunday before the harsh five-day lockdown comes into effect
Long queues are seen outside Coles in Maylands, one of the potential exposure sites, in Perth, on Sunday
Pictured: Quarantined traveller Arsiyanti Ardie
Another woman staying at the hotel also spoke out about the facility’s ‘poor’ Covid protocols.
Arsiyanti Ardie, who suffers from a life-threatening autoimmune disease, arrived at the Four Points from Jakarta on January 21 and said she immediately noticed some of the guards were wearing their masks hanging below their nose.
‘If I get Covid, I die. Period. I cut medical treatment in Jakarta short because COVID is the greater risk there and I simply have to be in a safe place,’ she told the Sydney Morning Herald.
‘Turns out I jumped from the frying pan into the fire. I have a pretty chipper outlook on life but I’m pretty distressed.’
Ms Ardie said she’s also worried about the poor ventilation and recirculated air.
‘If the hall or other rooms are being cleaned, the odour of cleaning products is strong in my room,’ she said.
Queensland Health speculated the air conditioning in the Grand Chancellor hotel in Brisbane may have been a factor in an outbreak that sparked a three-day lockdown at the beginning of January.
‘If you want a Victoria-style recipe for disaster, this is it,’ Ms Ardie said.
The state enjoyed close to 10 months without a single case of Covid-19 in the community, a feat Mr McGowan credits to his tough stance on borders by closing his state off from the rest of Australia for most of 2020
Australian Medical Association WA president Dr Andrew Miller said hotels are not designed to be quarantine facilities.
‘If you’re going to have a quarantine facility, get rid of the word hotel, convert the air conditioning so they’re pumping fresh air through the place, redesign the administration of it and employ people who simply work in quarantine facilities who are trained quarantine professionals, anything short of that is a ridiculous idea,’ he he told WA Today two weeks ago.
‘It’s incredibly disappointing that we are still running what we would describe as an amateurish quarantine system, these are not quarantine facilities, these are hotels.’
It emerged that the guard who tested positive lives with three other people, all of whom were placed in hotel quarantine.
Mr McGowan said each of the house mates returned a negative test, but that could change over coming days.
Last year an official inquiry was called after several private security guards and workers in Melbourne quarantine hotels contracted Covid-19 then spread it in the community in May and June.
This sparked Victoria’s second wave, which claimed more than 800 lives and caused four months of crippling lockdown.
BORDER RESTRICTIONS FOR WA
Queensland: Queensland has declared Perth, Peel and the South West a coronavirus hotspot, meaning anyone arriving from the area must go into 14-day hotel quarantine. Queensland Health also announced that anyone who had travelled from those WA areas since January 26 should be tested and isolate until they receive their result.
Victoria: From 9pm Victorian time on January 31, the Perth metropolitan area, the Peel region and the South West region of Western Australia will move from a green zone to a red zone under Victoria’s ‘traffic light’ travel permit system. If you have been in one of these currently listed red zones since January 25, you will not be allowed to enter Victoria without an exception, exemption or permitted worker permit.
New South Wales: A public health order places travellers who have arrived from Western Australia since January 25 under the same stay at home restrictions they would have faced had they not flown over east. New arrivals must complete an interstate traveller declaration and anyone who has been at a venue identified as a potential exposure site must get tested and isolate for 14 days. Anyone who has been in the Perth, Peel and the South West areas since January 25 must get tested within 48 hours of their arrival into New South Wales.
South Australia: Authorities are monitoring the situation but have not announced border restrictions as of Sunday night. However, residents are warned to delay any non-essential travel to Western Australia and South Australian residents are advised to return as soon as possible. South Australia Police will have a presence at the airport to ensure all people entering the state from interstate have submitted a cross border travel application.
ACT: If you have been in the Perth metropolitan area or the Peel and South West regions of WA since 25 January, you should self-quarantine and get tested for COVID-19. In line with the lockdown in WA, you must stay in self-quarantine until 9pm on Friday, even if you get a negative test result. This applies to passengers on the Qantas flight from Perth that arrived in Canberra Sunday evening. Non-ACT residents in WA are advised to not travel to the ACT at this time.
Northern Territory: From 7:30PM Sunday (NT time), the Perth, South West and Peel regions in WA will be declared hot spots for the purposes of travel to the Northern Territory. Anyone who arrives after this time will be directed into mandatory supervised quarantine. Anyone who has arrived in the NT from these regions between January 25 and 31 are directed to self-quarantine immediately, get tested, and remain in self-quarantine until returning a negative test.
Tasmania: Perth, Peel and the South West have been classified as high-risk areas. Travellers who have spent time in a high-risk area or premise in the 14 days before arriving in Tasmania are not permitted to enter Tasmania, unless approved as an essential traveller. If entry is approved, there may be a quarantine requirement in government-designated accommodation (fees can apply).